Unilever Headquarters Hafencity

Urban Planing & Headquarter 2nd Prize - Hamburg, 2006


Constructing a new city district in Hamburg means the chance for more simplicity as well as for more complexity, for clearness as well as for diversity, for public life as well as for private practices or commercial functions, for memorability without any need for so called one-liners. These are the objectives of this project, not more and not less.



Public space is always defined by the buildings' external surfaces. For a feeling of security, a rather closed zoning, obtained by combining various surfaces, is necessary. This is normally achieved by a block structure, which on the other hand no longer meets today's requirements for the interior's quality. An urban block is the origin for the draft of UNILEVER and an apartment house. This block is mainly defined by the socket, which therefore clearly delineates the public space. This is how the construction – UNILEVER and the apartment house – becomes part of the urban unit, forming a narrow "lane" in between one another. At the base area's edges, all invigorating and urban features are aligned: Here, these consist of 4 shops, 2 restaurants and 2 main entrances. The socket can – if wanted – generally be accessed and publicly used via vast outside staircases. Parting from the socket rises the apartment house and UNILIVER's new building. The last one's interior is shaped with double-chambers, staying blocky and clear in its silhouette, complemented with the rooftop: Vividness and variety, and at the same time deep peace and simplicity. The UNILEVER-building with its three units in harmony with the housing tower block is laid out in a city-friendly manner, avoiding ponderousness.

One of the drafters' most important criteria for human urban construction is the outlook, from as many planes of the urban component as possible, onto the water. This is achieved by big "city-windows" that unite the inner courtyards of the office building with the outer world, providing great distance vision. In particular, the drafters' choice of a tower block over a slab leads to spectacular round about panoramas, above all in the upper housing storeys. This urban element's impact is underlined by two differing façades: The outer edges of the block are shaped by cast stone façades of developing red tones. All other surfaces resemble slice planes of the total volume, kept bright by glass, metal or cast stone.